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Versatile cauliflower is a practical plate filler

There are many folks that like broccoli and not cauliflower even though they look similar. Cauliflower and broccoli are very different vegetables and not just in color.

Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber. Like most vegetables (including broccoli), cauliflower is low in calories, fat and cholesterol. Cauliflower is in the cruciferous family of vegetables and contain natural chemicals that may be helpful in the prevention of some cancers. Cauliflower is also a good source of Vitamin K. Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting and helps bones form properly.

Cauliflower is inexpensive and can be found year-round both fresh and frozen. Cauliflower has many uses; it can be eaten raw or cooked. It can also be prepared as a side dish or mixed with other foods as part of a main course. A new trend is to grind up cauliflower and serve in the place of higher carbohydrate foods such as rice or made into a dough for a pizza crust.

Selecting and storing

cauliflower

The white edible portion is called “the curd” and the heavy outer leaf covering is called “the jacket leaves.” Cauliflower is sold with most of the jacket leaves removed. Look for white to creamy white, compact, solid and clean curds.

Avoid cauliflower that is wilted or has discolored spots. Speckles or brown spots are a sign of insect injury, mold growth or decay and should be avoided. Store unwashed cauliflower in a plastic bag and place in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator. Cauliflower will keep in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Varieties of cauliflower

There are several varieties of cauliflower. Each has a variety of benefits. Some varieties can be more expensive than others.

Cauliflower looks a lot like broccoli expect that cauliflower has densely packed white flower buds. Usually only the head or curd is eaten.

Orange cauliflower is a newer variety. It is orange in color and tastes similar to the white. Orange cauliflower is a better source of Vitamin A. Purple cauliflower has purple curds and when cooked the color changes from purple to green. It cooks faster than white cauliflower and has a milder taster. It can be substituted for white in most recipes.

Broccoflower is a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. It looks like cauliflower except it has a light, bright green color. It has a sweeter taste than white cauliflower. Eaten raw or cooked, it has a similar taste to broccoli.

All these new varieties can replace white cauliflower in most recipes.

Preparation tips

Do not wash cauliflower until it is ready to use. Pull off outer leaves and cut off the stem close to the head. Cauliflower can be steamed, sauteed, roasted, boiled or microwaved.

Savory cauliflower

(Makes six 3/4 cup servings)

Ingredients: 1 large head of cauliflower

1 medium onion

2 large tomatoes

1 T. vegetable oil

1/4 tsp of garlic powder

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

Chop the cauliflower into 2-inch pieces. Peel and chop the onion. Chop the tomatoes. Put the cauliflower in a pan. Add 1 inch of water.

Cook over medium heat and let it boil for 3 minutes. In a large pan, heat oil. Add the onion and cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Drain the cauliflower.

Add the garlic power and cauliflower to the pan with the onion. Cook while stirring for 3 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and pepper. Cook for 5 more minutes. Serve with a sprinkle of cheese.

More versatility

Note: These recipes are not from Penn State Extension.

Cauliflower can be used as a substitute for rice, or can be turned into a pizza crust that may or may not be vegan, but definitely is gluten free.

To rice a head of cauliflower, trim the florets, cutting away as much stem as possible.

In batches, break up the florets into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles couscous.

The resulting rice can be used just as the grain would be in a recipe.

To make your own cauliflower pizza crust, chop half of a cauliflower head into small florets and steam until soft. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible with a clean dish towel.

Mash it with all other ingredients in a medium bowl with 1 1/2 tsp baking powder OR 2 1/2 tbsp ground flax or chia, 1/4 cup water, 1/3 cup flour (almost any kind, preferably gluten-free), 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp garlic powder and 1/2 tsp salt.

Form into a ball and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and pat it into a circle about 1/4-inch thick. Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned with crispy edges.

To finish the pizza, add toppings and bake eight minutes more.

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Submitted by Laurie Weinreb-Welch, Extension Educator: Food, Families and Health

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